Energy Secretary Rick Perry visits ORNL

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WVLT) -- U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry is touting the roles of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as central to the country's national defense and economic development goals.

Perry said Monday that he will fight to keep jobs and boost funding for the 17 national laboratories such as Oak Ridge and other Department of Energy facilities. The secretary's comments appeared at odds with President Donald Trump's budget priorities released in March that outlined $900 million in cuts to the department's Office of Science, which oversees 10 national labs including Oak Ridge.

"Today, we welcomed Secretary Perry to Oak Ridge," Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Monday. "He's a good manager and a good learner—and he spent today learning a lot about Oak Ridge. We here know that Oak Ridge means thousands of jobs for us and higher family incomes."

"We know it also means for the country higher family incomes and keeping us safe," Alexander continued. "We both saw the importance of the defense capabilities here and the job-creating capabilities. We've seen the materials researched, and we've seen the fastest computers in the world. We've seen some of the best research and innovative research on advanced manufacturing. All of those things make us very proud of Oak Ridge."

Perry, a former Texas governor, likened the budget proposal to an opening offer that he expects to see significantly changed in Congress. In Perry's words: "This is not my first rodeo when it comes budgeting."

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in a 3D printed vehicle at the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Dr. Thomas Zacharia, deputy director for Science and Technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Joe DiPietro, president of the University of Tennessee and Dr. Thom Mason, director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory at the Titan Supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.